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Tales from the Motherhood: Signs of spring slowly loosen winter’s grip

Spring, is that you?

Ever so slowly, it seems you’re emerging. I just know it, as my son seems to think its shorts weather – finally – and my daughter’s bird has tentatively resumed making its morning music somewhere high in the treetops above our home. For a few years now, Holly’s called this particular bird – species unknown – “her” bird.

“That’s my bird!” she still says, as she heads out the back door to the school bus, or to Rachel’s house across the street.

I love that she listens. I love that she calls it hers. And oh, how I love that bird for being there. And yet, we’ve never spotted it.

From time to time, over the years, we’ve craned our necks and studied the nearby trees, hoping to catch a glimpse, always wondering why we never have. But we know it’s there, nearby somewhere, just like the rest of spring.

It’s during these late-winter days, when the sap everywhere is rising and maple trees are tapped (a favorite thing for my kids and me to observe when they were little), when I wonder what would happen if we tried tapping our own maple tree. Would it work? Would we newbies unwittingly hurt our dear tree in the process? Perhaps we’ll ask the kind folks at one of the free local maple-sugaring demonstrations happening this weekend.

Naturalists at the Red Oak Nature Center in North Aurora will explain the process to visitors at their annual MapleFest on Saturday morning beginning at 9 a.m. (final tour at 1 p.m.). This is a fun visit, and isn’t complete without a taste-test.

We may head to LeRoy Oakes instead, though, as we’ve never been to theirs, which happens again this weekend from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

According to the Kane County Forest Preserve website, visitors will learn to identify maple trees, practice drilling and setting a tap and enjoy a “Sugarin’ Time” hike. I can’t wait. Wonder if I can talk my kids into going with me?

Maples are magic. Ours is aflame, every fall, a sight that never fails to move me. There used to be two, side-by-side, but one died a few years ago and needed to come down.

I regret that call now, as, dying or not, it was still beautiful. Magnificent, even. I thought I was protecting the children from dead limbs. Perhaps I did – I’ll never know.

But I miss those limbs, now, and their fall brilliance. Their summer shade, and the balance of having two trees on that side of the house. I suppose the upside is that there are fewer leaves for my rake to reap come fall, but there are also fewer to play in, too.

Now there’s an awkward lump in the grass where that tree used to be (not that I can see it right now, of course, under all of this snow). With every decision we make, there’s something to be gained and something to be grieved. We don’t always see what, at the time.

We had a tiny new tree planted, on the other side of the house, the following spring. We were amazed at how quickly new birds took up residence there. I was struck, too, that had I never made that call, they – and their babies – wouldn’t have been able to.

Though we’ve thought we’ve already heard them, too, a time or two, in spite of this chilly March, they have yet to return to the little tree. But it won’t be long. We’ve spotted a couple of bunnies in our neighbor’s driveway, mothers-to-be, maybe, who we think have decided it’s safe to scout potential nesting sites. Yes, spring is near.

I know that feeling, of having made it through another winter with my kids. Especially during their early years when, at the first signs of warmth – like those we’ve seen this week – I triumphantly pushed my stroller over hill and dale. That “all-is-right-with-the-world” feeling just can’t be beat.

I know how the mama bird feels, as she sings her morning song. It’s hard to fathom, after a winter so brutal as this, but soon, there really will be more leaves for nesting and playing in. I just know it.

• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. Contact her at

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